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Auckland kauri dieback tracks to reopen

Eight Auckland tracks affected by kauri dieback closures will reopen this year. Photo: Matthew Cattin

A wrap of the biggest stories and best writing about the outdoors from New Zealand and around the world. 

Eight walking tracks in Auckland are set to reopen by the end of 2020.

Waharau Loop in the Hunua Ranges, Omanawanui, Puriri Ridge, Donald McLean, Karamatura Loop Walk, Winstone and Ahuahu in the Waitākere Ranges and part of Glenfern on Aotea/Great Barrier Island were closed in 2018 to protect trees from kauri dieback.

The scheduled maintenance and updates to the tracks were impacted by the Covid-19 lockdown, Auckland Council biosecurity manager Lisa Tolich told Stuff.

“Work was also pushed back into a more challenging time of year when weather conditions are less favourable both in terms of impacting ground conditions and getting suitable weather for the helicopter work needed to fly materials in and out,” she said.

Auckland Council’s five year reopening plan saw seven tracks reopen in 2018, 11 in 2019, and last month, the popular Spraggs Bush Track in the Waitākere Ranges. 

“Feedback on the re-opened tracks has been very positive with lots of people getting out and enjoying them. Our messages for track users are to please follow all the rules that apply to the area,” Tolich said.

Meet the Milford Road Alliance avalanche control team

Stuff reporter Louisa Steyl has written an expose on the important work done by the Milford Road Alliance avalanche control team.

Based near the Homer Tunnel, the team of avalanche technicians monitor and forecast avalanche risks in the area – guarding the Milford Road from potentially disastrous slips.

Prior to Covid-19, the scenic Milford Road would record up to 900,000 vehicle movements annually, but the steep valley is highly prone to avalanches in winter. 

In winter, the team periodically closes down the road to detonate controlled avalanches – up to 100 a season.

Tuatara genome sequence mapped

A study has revealed secrets of the world’s weirdest reptile; the tuatara.

Led by University of Otago geneticist Neil Gemmell, a team of global experts and Ngātiwai iwi, the study sequenced the genes of the endemic reptile.

Findings revealed interesting ageing properties of the reptile, which can live more than 100 years. The tuatara’s genome sequence was found to be 67 per cent larger than a human’s, including more genes that protect against old age than any known vertebrate, Gemmell told RNZ.

“Tuatara also don’t appear to get many diseases, so looking into what genetic factors might protect them is another point of focus for our study, as we have also explored genetic aspects that underpin the vision, smell and temperature regulation of tuatara,” he said.

The study also confirmed the evolutionary position of the reptile, which is not a lizard, but its own species altogether, split off on its own trajectory 250 million years ago.

A boost for Banks Peninsula

A $5.11 million injection has helped Banks Peninsula get one step closer to reaching its predator-free goals.

The funding – part of the government’s Covid-19 recovery plan – will create 15 full-time jobs in the area and enable large-scale pest removal.

“This will benefit many special native species such as the jewelled gecko/moko kākāriki, Banks Peninsula tree wētā and banded dotterel/pohowera,” conservation minister Eugenie Sage said.

“There is strong support from Ngāi Tahu and the community in restoring these species and Te Pātaka o Rākaihautū.”

Exercising through a cancer diagnosis

Exercise and cancer don’t sound like a match made in heaven, but an article in Outside Magazine has explored the benefits exercise can have in treating and preventing cancer.

In a world-first, scientists prescribed at least 30 minutes of moderate activity three times a week and two weekly strength training sessions for those diagnosed with cancer. 

While fitness can reduce the risk of developing some types of cancer, it has also been proven to make treatment more effective by slowing and shrinking tumours on a cellular level. 

It also eases the effects of treatment, such as a loss in cardiorespiratory fitness and muscle atrophy, as well as promoting positive mental health.